Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
LATEST NEWS: Publication of the Regulations
Safe Work Australia has now published the model Work Health and
Safety Regulations. These have been approved by the Workplace
Relations Ministers' Council. They will be adopted by all
jurisdictions in Australia with some minor modifications.
Is your business ready?
Given the imminent commencement of the new laws, it is important
to examine how the changes will impact your business. We addressed
these issues in more detail in the publication "
OH&S Harmonisation". We have also prepared a
User's Guide to the practical aspects of the Workplace
Health & Safety Act. This User's Guide provides you with a
quick reference to understanding the safety obligations that are
imposed on your business from 1 January 2012.
Using the new laws to your advantage
The new safety laws offer businesses the opportunity to take the
lead from their competitors and not just focus on compliance. The
harmonised laws will raise the safety bar across all industries and
those businesses which are able to embrace them effectively can
distinguish themselves from their competitors.
One critical area will be the ability to effectively manage the
new consultation laws which requires consultation on safety matters
extending not only to workers but also to suppliers, manufacturers,
contractors and other organizations impacted by the operations of
any particular business. Clear processes and agreements dealing
with this part of the new laws will lead to a better safety
outcome, increased savings and a significant commercial advantage
Duty on officers
In addition, how a Board deals with the new positive duty of
care on all officers of a business may also prove critical when it
comes to securing important tenders. This new duty will require all
senior managers of the organisation to be able to demonstrate that
they understand the safety risks of the organisation and are taking
steps to ensure that the business is complying with the new safety
Finally, those businesses that take a proactive approach in
forming alliances with the safety regulators, as they themselves
come to grips with the new laws, may put them in front of their
competitors should any incident regrettably lead to the
consideration of enforcement action.
The safety regulators will now have a greater range of
discretionary enforcement tools that mean hefty fines are not
necessarily the only outcome. For example, the safety regulators,
for the first time in some jurisdictions, can exercise their
discretion not to fine a business, but to enter into an enforceable
undertaking. If a business is looking to protect its reputation
following a serious incident, the exercise of this discretion will
How can we help?
In the lead up to the introduction of the new laws, we can offer
the following assistance:
help you determine the scope of the new duties of care and
their impact on your existing health and safety obligations
review the contracts you make with clients, workers, suppliers,
designers, consultants and other organisations upstream and
downstream so as to ensure you are properly providing for health
and safety liability and risk
consider your safety consultation and issue resolution
processes and make recommendations to ensure they are effective and
train your managers to deal with authorised union
representatives and inspectors when they exercise powers to enter
your premises and investigate safety issues
identify those officers in your organisation who will attract
the positive duty to exercise due diligence, and advise how they
can best discharge that duty
advise you on the safety compliance and liability issues
arising from particular business transactions or structural
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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